World Wrestling Entertainment’s nostalgia-driven Raw reunion show last Monday in Tampa drew its highest ratings in over a year for what has long been the company’s flagship show and Smackdown, which needs to become the Stamford-based conglomerate’s new top priority this fall when it moves to Fox on Friday nights on October 4th, also saw its ratings up over the previous week when it put together a solid edition that actually did considerably more than Raw to promote the upcoming SummerSlam Pay-Per-View scheduled for August 11th in Toronto, Canada.
Meanwhile, TNT officially announced this past week that it will begin airing All Elite Wrestling on Wednesday evenings from 8 until 10 p.m. beginning with a live version from Washington, D.C. on October 2nd. Rumors abound that WWE is trying to get NXT on FS1 to go head-to-head against AEW during the same Wednesday evening time slot. A pro wrestling war will officially be on come October, although both companies will have some tough competition with baseball playoffs and the World Series during that month.
As for last Monday’s feel-good Raw that saw dozens of stars from the past return for cameos, with the exception of Mick Foley giving Bray Wyatt’s new fiendish character some rub by going down to, of all things, a mandible claw, the company did not really try to heavily push much of its current roster, but inadvertently made it quite clear that the stars of yesteryear are still much bigger, considerably more charismatic and more “over” than the ones on the current roster. That is a real problem, though hardly unique. Old timer’s games at Yankee Stadium and in certain other cities were always big hits in baseball, especially when the franchise was not winning championships in its current incarnation.
WWE clearly does not have the star power on its current roster to match several of the people they trotted out last Monday. Austin, Hogan, Cena, Flair, Michaels, Triple H and Foley were pretty big draws in their heyday, an understatement of monumental proportions in the case of several of those names, and they continue to get big pops from the crowd wherever they appear. Creative should have been, well, more creative at finding ways to give more of the current wrestlers a boost from an opportunity to be out there with some of the sport’s biggest names. Instead, we got mostly goofy comedy spots with 24/7 title changes galore at the center of several and a two and half decade sore spot thrown in for good measure. Some of it was humorous and other stuff cringe-worthy, with my wife, of course catching only a cringe-worthy segment, rolling her eyes and probably wondering how she ever married a guy who wastes whatever time he has left on this earth watching this nonsense.
The continuing saga of Drake Maverick and his obsession with the 24/7 title, much to the chagrin of his new wife, continued with Maverick pinning R-Truth for the first of many title changes that included former stooges (no, not the famous trio) Pat Patterson and Jerry Brisco getting ever so brief reigns, along with Kelly Kelly and Candice Michelle. Alundra Blayze won it and teased throwing the belt in a trash can the way she did about 24 years ago, before selling it to the Million Dollar Man who eventually appeared to lose it back to Maverick before R-Truth returned to win it back from Maverick and ruin Drake’s protracted honeymoon efforts. Reigns beat Samoa Joe after a spear and Rollins defeated AJ Styles via disqualification after interference by Gallows and Anderson, leading to a face-off with Degeneration X backing up Rollins. Natalya and Lynch set up their SummerSlam title bout with verbal sparring and a pull-apart.
Smackdown saw them set up Kofi vs. Orton for the WWE belt at SS after Kofi picked up a DQ victory over Samoa Joe and Charlotte Flair insisted she would be wrestling at SummerSlam, saying her opponent would be somebody a lot better than Amber Moon. Speculation is that she will be going against Hall of Famer Trish Stratus, a logical choice given the show will be in Toronto. Shane McMahon continued to spar with Kevin Owens, who gave Shane a stunner as they build for their bout at SS. After Dolph Ziggler insulted Shawn Michaels as he was a guest on Miz TV, took a shot from his former idol and returned the favor with a super kick on the Heart Break Kid. That could be a special attraction at SS, but Shawn was not too happy about his return in Saudi Arabia, so it may or may not be the direction they are going. We will have to wait and see. The next trip to Saudi Arabia is now scheduled for November 1st.
The Wrestling Observer reports that several signs have recently been put up honoring Bruno Sammartino as a former resident of the Pittsburgh suburb of Ross Township and that he will have a park and street named in his honor there in the near future. Tully Blanchard has joined AEW as a manager for Shawn Spears, who will face Cody Rhodes, playing off his famous feud with Cody’s dad, Dusty at the next AEW pay-per-view.
Viceland announced they will have a second season of 10 wrestling documentaries that will include looks at the Chris Benoit tragedy and Dino Bravo’s premature demise. The wrestling shows have garnered the channel’s best original programming ratings and received much positive feedback from fans of the mat game.